Uncommon Sense

May 5, 2010

Union-Anti, Union-Anti, Anti, Anti, Anti!

A spear point of the attack on the middle class by the monied interests is the undermining of the union movement in this country and it is working. Union jobs are a major source of stability for the middle class. Union wages are higher than non-union wages and those wages are generally spent in the communities where those jobs exist. The money is spent several times over, what economists call the “multiplier effect” (people paid with those wages, in turn buy things and pay for services, etc.), resulting in everyone in the community benefiting. But money paid to workers isn’t there to be paid to management or shareholders, so those folks have always opposed unionization of their businesses. But, because these jobs make customers for those selfsame businesses, one would think that the opposition would be mild. In roughly 1960 both Canada and the U.S. had about 32% of their jobs as union jobs. Now, Canada is at about 32% and the U.S. is at about 14%!

It will probably come as no shock that this period also corresponds to the time in which executive compensation has exploded, from being 3-4 times as much as what an average worker in the business makes to being 3-400 times as much, and in which a great many Wall Street workers have made millions and even billions without making a physical contribution to the economy.

So, how is this done? Typical of the attacks is one made by the CEO of Caterpillar, Inc. in my local newspaper recently. In an “Op-Ed” he spread disinformation about the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). This act is trying to return the law to the point where it was a few decades ago, where the powers of businesses and unions were fairly balanced. The points made in his article weren’t even the author’s own opinions; they were part of a standard anti-union diatribe that is being spouted by conservatives around the country. (Talking points are circulated on the internet! No “Old Boy’s Club” needed!) Plus, virtually every claim made by the CEO was incorrect. The EFCA will not eliminate secret ballot elections, elections would still be available to employees but as one of the options available to employees, not just employers as it is now. Currently management can demand “free and fair” elections and prohibit the historical card signing process. The rules (consistently distorted in managements direction since the Reagan administration) also allow them to hire union-busting companies to come in and intimidate their own employees with tactics like demanding to know how employees intend to vote in such an election! Also legal are threats, often delivered in private, that “if the union gets elected, we will have to fire you.” (This is more effectively done in private, because if you threaten to fire large groups of people, it is hard to say how that is an improvement over working with a union.)

So much for the sanctity of the secret ballot espoused by the author. This is a common tool in argumentation, though, to espouse something like the “sanctity of a secret ballot” which sounds like an absolute good. They also say competition is an absolute good. But, these are conditionally true ideas made to sound absolutely true. Competition is not always a good thing: imagine sitting around the dinner table with your kids and after some discussion you say “Well, Janey did best in school today, so she gets to eat.” This is ludicrous, I know, but sometimes competition is good, sometimes it is not. The same is true for a secret ballot. Before you try to hang me for being a democracy apostate, please note that none of your Senators or Congressmen get to vote secretly. Every time they cast a vote it is on the record. If voting in secret is so damned sacred, why don’t we let or federal representatives do so? (Hint, secret ballots are a tool, a good tool, like competition.)

In arguing against the binding arbitration provisions in EFCA, the author refers to “government arbitrators” when it is a well known fact that the arbitrators are from independent associations, such as the American Arbitration Association, that have nothing to do with any government and that the choice of arbitrator is mutual and not one-sided. And yet another conservative bugaboo “the government wants to control your life” is slipped into an argument in an attempt to demonize the EFCA.

I am surprised the author didn’t bring up the argument of “union pressure” being applied to “force” employees to sign cards. Specious as that argument is, it is pulled out over and over in such arguments as these. I am willing to put the charges of union abuse of employees on any scale provided by the author if he is willing to put charges of employer abuses on the other pan. I have no doubt which way that balance would swing. Possibly he had to edit his article for length and that is why this hoary old argument didn’t appear.

Big business and the monied interests do not want this legislation to pass as it undermines their idea of being in complete control of their universes.

The unfortunate aspects of the anti-union campaign is that it undermines the American middle class. It undermines our income, it undermines our ability to provide for our families and, amazingly, it undermines our ability to be customers of the companies fighting unionization. The appalling result is that while these companies are fighting to make sure our jobs are as low paying as possible (union jobs pay more than non-union jobs) these bastards are fleeing overseas, taking all of their jobs with them rather than paying American workers a decent wage, union or not. This does tell you where their hearts are if not their minds.


  1. The Dawn of Union Piracy Perpetrated by Glenn Beck!

    When we hear the word pirate, we tend to think of a tough seaman with a plumed hat, a shirt with ruffles, musketeer boots, and an ample belly covered by a bandoleer over a coat with tassels. Or else we imagine the figure of the English corsair of the sixteenth century captained by Francis Drake, Henry Morgan, or Captain Kidd. Without a doubt, these personages and their era represent the golden age of piracy in the Western world. That is until today, the most dangerous pirate to the middle class is Glenn Beck.

    For years the poor were employed and ruled and controled by the wealthy, people worked dusk till dawn seven days a week in dangerous working conditions and none of the poor ( there was no middle class in those days) knew what retirement was, back then everyone worked until they died. In the early 1900′s some of the first unions started to be born and demanded better working and living conditions through safety and higher wages, the poor began to experience for the first time what it was to work and earn a living wage and what saving money was like. The poor no longer had to spend every penny earned just to buy food and clothes. As the Unions grew stronger the wealthy business owners watched in horror as the poor workers morphed into the middle class and the money barrons lost control of the working people.

    Today the oligarchies of the 21 century have enlisted Glenn Beck, after all he is a patriot a real Paul Revere, to sound the call, telling everyone who will listen how bad unions are and how we need to get rid of them.

    Why? Because these same powerful money kings want to drive us back to the days when the ruling power belonged to a few wealthy people. They can’t regain control of the middle class, unless they have the power to cut wages in half, take away pensions and benefits and drive them back down to the poor state they were in before unions leveled the playing field.

    Oh, Beck doesn’t say it the way I am telling it, he slicks it up and puts a pretty dress and lipstick on it and calls the unions pigs and violent radicals, but what he really wants is to break all unions and send the middle class back into the dark ages.

    Why is he trying to pirate the middle class? Could the wealthy be paying Beck millions to brain wash the majority of the American people, who by the way can now afford a comfortable life because of the benefits of the Union.



    Comment by marysloft — May 9, 2010 @ 4:57 pm | Reply

    • I remember the days when public comment was solicited from people who had some knowledge and wisdom to contribute. Next we went to the “man on the street” interview and finally we come to Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and their ilk. Do they have any credentials? Do they have any real life basis for their opinions? Or are they just feedback machines giving us what their polls say will keep us listening? Is Rush Limbaugh worth 40 million dollars to undermine our society? Why do we listen to this bilge?


      Comment by stephenpruis — May 27, 2010 @ 10:51 am | Reply

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